Emerson has never had a full-time, dedicated coordinator for the federal gender equity law Title IX, but is conducting an ongoing search that the administration predicts will soon come to a close, according to Vice President for Diversity and Inclusion Sylvia Spears.
Alexa Jackson, the college’s associate vice president for human resources, currently holds the position, but the college announced in April 2014 it would hire a new coordinator, following what administrators called national trend to assign those responsibilities to a specific person. Spears said the search process has yet to find a full-time Title IX coordinator because the college is looking for a candidate with previous experience.
“We’re looking as much as we can at people who have been sitting, full-time Title IX coordinators, because that’s the level of work that this person will be doing,” Spears said. “So those people are certainly our preferred candidates in the search process.”
In 2011, when the U.S. Department of Education, which oversees the implementation of Title IX, issued new guidelines that required all colleges that receive federal funds to each have a Title IX coordinator.
“The Title IX Coordinator is responsible for monitoring and overseeing the College’s investigation of any complaints of unlawful sex discrimination, sex based harassment including rape, sexual assault, battery and coercion, and any related retaliation,” says Emerson’s website.
That was when Emerson created the position and assigned Jackson to it, said Spears.
Jackson declined to comment for this article, but in 2014, she told the Beacon she received only limited training at first and didn’t know what the position would entail.
A federal lawsuit filed in December that accuses the college of mishandling a student’s sexual assault case mentions Jackson in its complaint, but doesn’t list her as a defendant.
Spears has said that the decision to hire a full-time coordinator did not stem from any particular event.
Two candidates for the dedicated Title IX coordinator position were brought to campus in December, but ultimately, neither were hired.
Although the prospective candidates progressed through the college’s search committee, they didn’t fit enough of the criteria for the position, Spears said.
“It’s an interesting combination of technical skills, legal knowledge, and the ability to really demonstrate strong interpersonal skills,” Spears said. “So we’re a little bit picky and we’re taking our time. As much as I really want a full time Title IX coordinator here as soon as possible, I really want the right person here. For me, that’s most important.”
Spears said she hopes to hire someone by the end of the semester.
“There’s a lot on the line—especially for students—in this position,” Spears said. “It’s somebody who will provide leadership around how to create a real culture where individuals are valued and respected and honored no matter what happens. And so, that’s an important leadership role.”